Saturday, 27 September 2014

Lessons from the Scottish Referendum for Eurosceptics

Daily Telegraph: Eurosceptics must learn serious lessons from Alex Salmond’s defeat

Article by Charles Moore

'In a European referendum, comparable questions will arise. They cannot, thank goodness, be about the currency (though there could be an alarming run on sterling). But they might be about free trade with Europe and being shut out of markets, or about the exact terms of our subsequent relationship with the EU. If the Get Outers shake their fists like the wartime cartoon and shout “Very well, alone!”, they might be chaired through the streets of Clacton, but they will lose.

They will be assailed, after all, by an Establishment. True, it will be much more divided than the one that favoured the No vote in Scotland. Even so, it will include virtually all civil servants, most big companies that want public sector and EU contracts, scientists worried about research grants, equality and diversity spokesmen, NGOs, and (of course) the BBC. The president of the EU Commission will explain how a new relationship is not on offer, and the British Cabinet Secretary and the head of the Supreme Court will murmur – with all due impartiality – their agreement. At some point, there will even be a discreetly placed suggestion that the Queen is “very concerned” about possible divisiveness.'

Charles Moore looks at the results of the Scottish election and thinks "Oh crumbs, we could lose too."

As an Europhile, this article made me happy. I think it is pretty likely that if a referendum on Britain's continued membership of the EU does take place, the 'Stay In' side will win. The Scots and the Welsh will vote to stay in, and the majority of Labour voters will vote to stay in. The fear factor will make change seem like a big risk.

Another factor is the electoral mathematics. A huge problem Labour have traditionally had winning elections in the UK is the constituency system. Labour can pile up huges numbers of votes in the cities, but they can't win enough of the provincial seats. In a referendum, all those extra votes in the cities count. If the 'Stay In' side can get those urban labour voters all voting for continued EU membership, they will win.

One big difference with the Scottish election is the difficulty the 'Get Out' side will have in articulating a positive vision of Britain outside the EU. Salmond was able to conjure a glorious vision of an inclusive and progressive independent Scotland. When the 'Get Outs' present their vision of a new Britain, it will be uncomfortably clad in the old-fashioned images of either British Imperialism or narrow Little Englandism. A lot of people in modern Britain are going to reject that vision.

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